Friday, July 16, 2004


2. Explain the ethical system of Epictetus and then of Spinoza. Next compare and contrast their ethical theories. Offer specifics detailing how they are similar and how they are different. (I recommend writing this in three sections: Epictetus; Spinoza; Comparision.)

the main idea of epictetus' ethical theory is that of rationality and discipline. he claims that the reason for unhappiness is the inability of human beings to let things go. epictetus is a believer of god, and his believe of divine supremacy influences his ethical theory, as well as his practice of stoicism. according to epictetus, since god is a divine being, all powerful and benevolent, all events that occur in this world are essentially good; this is what epictetus argues that people do not understand. if people can understand that all events are essentially good, then there will be no unhappiness. epictetus claims that human beings have to realize that there are two categories of things in this world: one is things that human beings have control over, and two is things the human beings have NO control over; events and occurence are examples of the latter. emotions and attitudes are, however, considered the former. epictetus says that since emotions and attitudes are things that are within one's control, one should learn to discipline oneself by using rationality. ultimately, human beings will be able to obtain true happiness if they can have indifferent attitudes toward good and bad fortunes, because ability to have such attitude indicates one's complete understanding that events are outside one's power and there is nothing one can do to prevent the bad ones from happening or to make the good ones happen. in epictetus' ethical theory, the key to happiness is practicing self-restraint.

spinoza is also a believer of god, only in a different way: spinoza's god is nature. the reason why spinoza sees god in nature is probably because in nature everything is good and perfect. it's like seeing sunset from yosemite standing next to a waterfall; it will be hard for one not to admit the outstanding beauty that nature possess. spinoza's ethical theory is influenced by this god, nature. the main idea is that he believes that human beings strive for self-preservation and self-perfection. therefore, one's actions will always be directed toward the goals to preserve oneself and move oneself closer to perfection. spinoza believes that rationality is essential for one to fulfill these goals; without rationality, one will not be preserved, nor will one get any closer to happiness. the striving to reach these goals, spinoza claims, will lead one to happiness, for the process to reach perfection involves virtue and in virtue there is happiness. spinoza highly regards the concept of rationality, for he believes that the concept of free will does not mean that one is free to do anything one wants, but free to be able to REASON one's actions. again, in rationality, one also finds happiness that brings one closer to perfection and preservation.

the ethical theory of spinoza and epictetus are quite alike. both believe in the existence of god, and both highly incorporate rationality into their ethical theory. basically the basis of their ethical theories are alike, it's the implementation of the basis to the theory itself that distinguishes these two philosophers. spinoza's god is nature, and in that spinoza sees perfection, which then leads him to conclude that people strive for perfection because god ---nature--- is perfect. epictetus's god is this omnibenevolent, omnipotent divine being, and in that epictetus sees good; this leads him to conclude that good or bad fortunes are essentially good, because they come from god. the use of reasoning in their theories are also different: spinoza claims that since human seeks perfection, they have to REASON their actions to get to perfection. for epictetus, however, since all events are in the hands of god, one must USE reason to discipline one's mind into being able to accept the fact that events, whether they are good or bad, are essentially good. both philosophers think that the use of reason in the way they suggest will eventually lead one into happiness.


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